I have always had a interest in meditation, so we researched and found this meditation retreat in Chiang Mai. We signed up for the 5 day course meditation retreat at the Doi Suthep Vipassana Meditation Center. They also have other duration of days courses available that you can choose from, but since we’re a total beginner, we thought 5 days is a good amount for starters. It’s really 3 full days because the first and last day are only half days. The retreat is free, but do think about making a donation at the end of your stay (they’ll give you a sheet to fill out).
GETTING TO DOI SUTHEP TEMPLE
We took a tuk tuk from near our hostel to the temple for 130 baht per person. Once at the temple area, we bought some food at the food stands and ate them, it’s our last good food before we get in lol.
To get to the meditation center, we went up the long dragon stairs to the Doi Suthep temple. Once at the main temple entrance area, we were a bit confused as to where the meditation center is, there was so many people visiting the temple, so it was a bit chaotic. We found the temple admission staff and he told us where to go to get to the meditation center.
The path to the meditation center led us through pathways through houses on the mountain side. Once on this pathway, the noises from the temple subsided quite a bit. When we were on the pathway, there was a dog that came around us, I think he was helping us guide the way to the meditation center lol.
Once we found the meditation center office, there was someone there that checked us in and showed us to our rooms. The room is very basic, just a bed with a blanket and pillow. After we changed into our white clothing and got settled, we went to attend the opening ceremony. We met the head instructor, went through the ceremony instructions and was given a schedule of what to do everyday.
Here’s the schedule I was given:
5:30am – Dhama Talk
7:00am – Breakfast
11:00am – Lunch
6:00pm – Chanting
All the times in between should be for meditation. Between lunch and 6pm chanting there’s also a individual meeting time with the instructor where he shows you what to do as you progress through your meditation everyday.
Packing for the Meditation Retreat
I brought with me my daypack that included my white long pants and long sleeve shirts, a sleeping bag liner, flip flop, insect repellent, hygiene essentials (toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel), white scarf, passport, cellphone (I only use it for the alarm clock purpose), and some cash for purchasing additional food at the convenience shop and donation. I left my main backpack at the hostel I was staying at (Green Sleep Hostel), they allowed us to leave our luggage at their storage room so we don’t get charged for the days we’re not staying there.
For food I brought my bael tea and beef jerky, which I think helped with the hunger lol. For some reason I thought I can’t bring food to the retreat, but I think it’s ok as long as you don’t eat after lunch time. They have a convenience store inside the cafeteria so that if you are still hungry after eating the food they provided, you can still buy some other food to fill you up. I just remember buying the ice cream from the convenience store multiple times. I was really glad I brought my beef jerky lol.
2 days before we went on the retreat, we went to the Warorot Market (Kad Luang) to buy the meditation uniforms. We rented bicycles from our hostel and biked to the market. Inside the market, they also sell a ton of local snacks and other things, which is where I bought the bael tea (they’re good for you). Go in the morning instead of late in the day as I remember they started closing before the sun set.
My experience at the Meditation Retreat
I think this meditation retreat is probably more laid back then the ones I’ve heard from other people at other meditation retreats. The teacher other than giving you instructions on how to meditation everyday through your progress, they don’t watch you while you meditate, so you’re really free to go about your day as you wish. There’s multiple spots you can meditate too, you can meditate in your room, in the main hall, in the balcony, etc. The only negative thing for me was the mass amount of ants in the bathrooms on the first level of the accommodation area. I later found out the second level was much cleaner so used the bathroom upstairs lol.
Regarding the food here, they’re ok, some days was good, some days ok. I was actually quite surprised, I didn’t feel starved and horrible without dinner everyday. I’m wondering if it’s because we don’t do anything active and just meditate, so you’re not using a lot of energy lol. I did eat my beef jerky so maybe that helped haha.
The meditation retreat was a good experience for me. I had a previous experience with meditation before, when I was in my psychology class in school, the teacher put on a audio tape of a women talking you through to relax every part of your body from the top down, basically from what I know now it was a body scan session. I was totally immersed in her instructions and experienced this feeling of my body in sleep mode but with my mind fully alert, it’s the feeling like the moment you go under anesthesia except your mind is fully awake at the same time your body is sleeping. At the time I didn’t know what that body experience was and really didn’t think much about it, but that’s one of the things you’ll experience when you get into meditation.
The deepest I went while meditating here at the retreat was experiencing the same body sensation but also feeling like my hands are so heavy that the sensation of the form of the hand is no longer there even though your hands are there lol. I meditated for an hour this time which was the longest I could do. I think I may not have fully experienced what a meditation retreat might bring for you as I took naps in the afternoon, after 3 days in I realized I shouldn’t be taking naps? Lol.
Other things I enjoyed here was listening to the teacher telling stories and topics such as dealing with boredom, happiness, doubt, etc. during the Dhamma Talk at 5:30am in the morning. I also liked the group chanting everyday, it’s almost like singing in a way. There’s a few chants I really liked the melody.
Things that I learned from the meditation retreat or things to keep in mind as you go through life: material possessions will not make you happy, having bigger and better things will not bring you happiness. Emotions and thoughts are fleeting, so do not get stressed out from them. Stay in the present and do not worry too much, and find out what you truly love to do.
When the meditation course was close to be over, I had a feeling of not wanting to leave because I felt like I have no worries and stress at all which was very calming and nice, but at the same time wanting to leave because of the freedom to eat good food whenever you want lol.